Knowledge about how we are doing relative to our peers is essential to realize the true sense of independence. After all our nation has spent record Rs. 50 billion on Independence Day celebrations. It is a great sum and there should be some good reason for being so happy. Perhaps we are doing better relative to our peers thus having this exuberance. A number of countries won independence more or less at the same time i.e. late 1940s and can be look up to for comparison.
But how to compare countries with all their diverse cultural and institutional environment? This question is important but one can follow accepted rules of comparison. For instance, the income per capita when measured in standard international dollars (technical name is Purchasing Power Parity dollars or PPP dollars) gives the purchasing power that an average citizen enjoys over a representative basket of goods and services.
Thanks to the efforts by economists like (late) Angus Maddison historical estimates of major socio-economic indicators are available since the beginning of the modern era (i.e. year 1 to the present time). These estimates covers large number of countries from all the regions. (Details of data sources used in this essay are given at the end).
In this analysis, we are focusing on a time period from 1950 to 2012. Thus, in 2012 the annual income of an average Pakistani is 2741 in PPP dollars. This is roughly double the income of what an average Pakistani has had in 1980. It means that our per capita income has doubled over 32 years. By simple rule of thumb, if a given sum grows at the rate of 1 percent, it doubles in 72 years, and at the rate of 2 percent it takes 36 years to double. Thus, a doubling in 32 years means that income of an average Pakistani grew at little more than 2 percent per year. This is fast considering Pakistan’s own past performance over 40 years from 1950 to 1990. Over this four decades stretch an average Pakistani experienced an increase in her annual income from 1006 in PPP dollars to 1904, or less than double.
Now consider South Korea who gained independence in 1948. Like Pakistan, South Korea had suffered significantly due to its military conflict with neighboring North Korea. In 1950 an average Korean and an average Pakistani were at the same level or at least the difference was small: average Korean’s annual income was 1.2 times higher than her counterpart Pakistani. But in 2012, the situation was fundamentally different. An average Korean was enjoying 11 times higher income than an average Pakistani. In plain terms, for every 100 PPP dollars value that a Pakistani adds to his country’s national income, his Korean counterpart adds 1100 PPP dollars to Korean national income. Moreover, the income level that an average Pakistani is celebrating on his country’s 69th independence, an average Korean has long surpassed in 1970! With this knowledge we can say that on our 69th independence day we are 40 years behind South Korea, a country who is going to celebrate her 69th independence day on 15th August.
One can argue that Koreans are exceptional, that they are a small country and thus are easily manageable. Pakistan on the contrary is big and diversified.
This may be the case. So let us check China which is big and diversified than no other country. Moreover China also gained independence in 1949 around 2 years after Pakistan. In 1950 an average Pakistani was enjoying 1.5 times higher income than an average Chinese. This sounds comforting. But China not only cover this income gap but in 2012 an average Chinese has an annual income more than 3 times higher than an average Pakistani. An average Chinese surpassed an average Pakistani of 2012 in 1990s, before entering the new millennium. In plain terms, there is a 22 years gap that an average Pakistani need to cover to stand shoulder to shoulder with his Chinese brother.
What about our perennial rival India? In 1950 an average Indian was earning 37 PPP dollars less than an average Pakistani. In 2012, the equation is reversed: the average income of an Indian is 1100 PPP dollars higher than an average Pakistani.
The comparison is depressing but it is in terms of money and money can’t buy everything. Perhaps, an average Pakistani, despite of having fewer dollars in his hands also have lesser stock of worries, fewer frustrations and greater capabilities. This sounds plausible as Sri Lanka, despite standing low on income rankings, enjoys greater esteem in terms of human development of its people. So it is also possible that a Pakistani has more happiness and longer carefree life than the countries who crossed us in the rat race of money making.
Again skimming through the statistics over 1950 to 2012 period of the life expectancy at birth I found that my hypothesis does not stand up to scrutiny. Over the given period, South Korea lead the race again with adding 34 years of life to its average citizen (starting from 48 years of life expectancy). While China and India are having a tie as both added 32 years to its average citizen’s life (starting from 36 and 44 years average life expectancy, respectively). And an average Pakistan has got an addition of 29 years (starting from 38 years of life expectancy).
But it is possible that life expectancy was not increased rapidly in Pakistan because of the large size of our population. One can thus expect that with education our people will become more responsible and so reduce their multiplication rate to catch up with our peers. To check whether this is the case I collect historical growth rates of population. To start, Pakistan had a lower annual growth rate of population in 1950 than the three countries in our group. Thus, in the beginning (i.e. in 1950) Korean and Chinese populations were each growing at a 2 percent annual rate while India’s growth rate was 1.7 percent. Pakistan’s population growth was 1.5 percent in 1950. However, the good part of the story ends here. Population growth in Pakistan attained its peak in 1980 at 3.1 percent and slows down to 2.1 percent in 2012. Compare this with Korean peak of 3.4 percent in 1965 and a slow down to 0.6 percent in 2012. Or with China where population growth attained its maximum of 1.8 percent in 1990 before falling down to 0.5 percent in 2012. Even India did better: Indian population achieved highest growth rate of 2.3 percent in 1980 and fall to 1.3 percent growth in 2012. With so high a population growth rate and with lowest share of expenditure on education of 1.6 percent in 2012 compared to 4.1 percent of Korea or 3.1 percent of India, one can expect an enormous burden on our natural resources in coming years and consequent shrinking of the productive base.
What can we conclude from the above analysis? It would be wrong to say that Pakistan is lacking in achievements. However, our standing in this world is gauged in relative terms. And it is here that our performance is below average. To cover the lost ground, we need to increase knowledge base of an average Pakistani, expand his thinking horizon, and make him capable to increase his skill set. If an average Pakistani can learn to take selfie and share it using different apps, he can self-teach himself other skills too. Perhaps the later course would be more in line with the Iqbal’s conception of self (ego).
Sources used in this essay
Data in this essay is taken from Alexander Avakov’s Two Thousand Years of Statistics (2015) and Oxford Univeristy’s project Our World in Data (www.ourworldindata.org).